On Wednesday we visited with Em and Max and Emily treated us to a lovely lunch from a local Mediterranean restaurant. I had moussaka which was *really* tasty. It was different from traditional moussaka in that it didn't have a bechemel sauce and it wasn't in a sort of stacked lasagna type format. It was eggplant in a very lovely ground beef sauce served over rice. I really enjoyed it, so I decided that I would try and make it myself for lunch on Friday.
Since the moussaka that I would be replicating didn't have bechemel I figured it would be pretty easy. Somehow or another I got a little off track.
I started with the meat sauce recipe that we used for pastitsio. I sauteed mire poix (the equivalent of one bag of pre-cut mire poix from Wegman's) in a little bit of olive oil, together with oregano and a bit of thyme. Once the carrots softened and the onions became translucent, I added one pound of ground beef to brown (breaking up the ground beef periodically so it is in very small bits). Once the ground beef browned I added one 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, about half a small can of tomato paste, 1/4 of a cup of red wine, two bay leaves, salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice (to taste). Then I let the meat sauce simmer for about 45 minutes. In the mean time I prepared my eggplant. I cut one large purple eggplant into disks, then cutting each disk into chunks. The eggplant chunks with seeds I tossed with kosher salt in a colander set to drain into a bowl. I left the eggplant chunks draining for about fifteen minutes, after which I rinsed them with water. Once the eggplant was ready I pan fried the chunks in a bit of olive oil until just golden brown. I then added the browned eggplant pieces to the meat sauce. (Now, all of that having been said, if I stopped at this point I would have been replicating the "not-too-traditional" moussaka from Wednesday, and it would have been accomplished in two pans and one pot (for rice)). But, can I stop here? Of course not. Now I decide, "well, maybe I'll go ahead and make the bechemel" Yeah, okay, that means dirtying two more pots. First I needed four tablespoons of butter melted, into that I whisked one cup of flour. While whisking, four cups of milk was heating in a separate pan, together with one bay leaf and a bit of all spice. Once the milk was heated I ladled in one ladleful of milk at a time to the flour/butter mixture, continuing to whisk. You may need to adjust the milk to flour/butter ratio to ensure that you have the right consistency. I prefer a bechemel that is less thick-- once you're happy with the bechemel, add grated Parmesan.
Now, at the time I had thought I'll just drizzle some of the bechemel over the moussaka... then I thought, "oh, gee, why not bake it in the oven?" So I set the oven to 350 degrees and got out one of my emile henry pans. I put one layer of meat/eggplant on the bottom of the pan and then drizzled over some of the bechemel, layered more of the meat/eggplant and then topped off with bechemel. Finally, I added some breadcrumbs on top. (You could melt some butter and toss the breadcrumbs in the butter and use that as the topping, but by this time I had used so many pots and pans I figured I would just use plain breadcrumbs!). I then baked the moussaka in the oven for about 20 minutes (until the moussaka was bubbly and golden on top). While the moussaka was baking I made some rice pilaf (out of a box, thanks to "Near East" foods....)
All in all I managed to use one large pan, one small fry pan, three pots, a colander, a big bowl and a baking dish. So much for a simple lunch.
Once the moussaka was done in the oven I let it stand for about 5-10 minutes and then served with the rice pilaf on the side. Good crusty bread or pita and some hummus would have been a great accompaniment. All in all it was pretty tasty, even if more complicated than the version which inspired it!